How to Make Money While You Sleep With Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is about making money. Gobs of money. Money for doing nothing.

At least that’s what a quick Google search would have you believe, but as usual, the truth is a little more complex than that.

Yes, you can make money through affiliate marketing. Good money. And, yes, you can even make money while you sleep.

what is affiliate marketing and how does it work

In this post, we’re going to teach you how to generate passive income with successful affiliate marketing. If you’re brand new to it, this post will help you get started.

If you’re already into affiliate marketing, you’ll probably still find something in here you haven’t thought of before. ?

Before we get in too deep, let’s start with a very brief definition.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is when an online retailer pays you a commission for traffic or sales generated from your referrals.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

how to do affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a simple 3-step process:

  1. You recommend a product or service to your followers.
  2. Your followers purchase the product or service using your affiliate link.
  3. You get paid a commission for the sales made using your affiliate link.

Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing

Now you know the basic definition of affiliate marketing and how the process works, so let’s talk about how to get started.

Many would-be affiliate marketers don’t take the time to plan and instead sign up for every affiliate marketing network or affiliate marketing program they can find.

They end up overwhelmed and overloaded.

Don’t be like them.

Take your time and work through these 7 steps if you want to set yourself up for success. Complete the first 4 steps before you even consider promoting a single product. ?

1. Find Your Niche

Do you say “nitch” or “neesh?”

Either way you pronounce it, choosing a niche will give focus to your business and help you with content. It’ll also make it easier to create targeted marketing campaigns.

For some people, choosing their niche is the hardest part of starting their own business, but it doesn’t have to be that way. To choose your niche, it just takes asking a few questions:

  • What am I passionate about? Typically, the things we’re passionate about are things we’re also already knowledgeable about, which makes it much easier to create content.
  • Is this topic big enough? Is there enough to the topic to create up to 100 blog posts? If not, you may struggle with search engine optimization or have trouble developing authority.
  • Is the niche oversaturated? Is there room for another affiliate in the niche? Before jumping into an overly popular niche and trying to compete with folks who’ve been around for a while, maybe give another niche a try.
  • Is there money in this niche? Money isn’t everything, to be sure. If you’re interested in a couple of topics and one is a moneymaker, but one isn’t… choose the moneymaker.

You can check out a niche on an affiliate retailer like ClickBank to see if it’s worth putting time into it.

To do this, go to the ClickBank site and click on Affiliate Marketplace:

get started with affiliate marketing

From there you’ll see categories in red on the left:

get started with affiliate marketing

Clicking on one of the categories will bring up a page with filters on the left and the different products that you could sell for your niche on the right:

promoting products

Quick Tip: Sort by the Gravity metric to rank the affiliate products by how well they sell for the niche you’ve chosen.

What you’re looking for is products that have a high Gravity score, decent average income per sale, and that would fit in naturally with your content. If you’re finding plenty of products you would be able to write about, you’ve found a profitable niche!

2. Build a Website

Once you’ve found a profitable niche that you’re excited about, you’re ready to build a website and blog. WPBeginner has a great guide to help you choose the best blogging platform that will definitely make this process a lot easier.

The primary focus of your site is going to be your blog, but there are several pages that you should consider including (and some that are a flat-out MUST for affiliate marketers):

  1. About: Make it personable and let people get to know you a little.
  2. Contact: This should include all contact information that you want to share with your readers, advertisers, or potential partners.
  3. Disclaimer: If your site is monetized, this is where you share the how of it.
  4. Privacy Policy: Let users know if you collect any information about them and how that information is used.
  5. Terms of Service: This is a legal page limiting your liability in the event of misuse of information or services provided on your site. It also details user responsibilities regarding copyrights and trademarks.
  6. Custom 404 Page: A custom 404 page goes a long way toward improving the user experience.
  7. Advertise:  If you plan on selling on-site ads, include a page for advertisers with information about available spots, monthly views, audience demographics, and a contact form.

It’s important to make sure that your policies are clear and upfront to avoid confusion and to build trust with your audience.

3. Create Quality Content

Now that the framework of your page is ready to go, you need to create content.

Some affiliate networks and affiliate programs require you to already have established content, site traffic, and monthly views at a certain level before they’ll accept you as an affiliate, so be sure to read the eligibility requirements for the specific networks and programs you’re considering before you apply.

This doesn’t mean that you have to create 100 blog posts before you can even think about becoming an affiliate marketer, but you should have at least 5 strong posts already on your site with more scheduled.

affiliate marketing for beginners

New to content marketing? We have an excellent beginner’s guide to content marketing to help you get started. And, definitely check out our SEO guide to optimize your content to drive traffic to your site!

4. Grow Your Email List

Yes, email is still the #1 communication channel for marketing. And, it still carries a completely wild $38 return for every $1 spent.

What does this mean to you? That it’s 3800% worth it to invest some time and money into growing your email list.

One of the easiest ways to grow your email list is by adding a popup to your site:

Special offer popup example
Get started with OptinMonster today to create your own awesome popups!

Don’t worry if you’ve never done email marketing before; we’ve all got to start somewhere. We have a beginner’s guide to email marketing that will take you from zero to automating your email marketing campaign in no time.

If you’re looking to step up your email marketing campaigns, check out these posts on decreasing your unsubscribe rates and segmenting your email list like a pro.

5. Choose Affiliate Products to Promote

If you’ve done the work to choose a niche, choosing affiliate products to promote should be easy! Choose products that fit your niche and relate to your content.

Where do you get ideas for products to promote? Anywhere, really:

Promote Products you Already Use

What do you already use and love? There’s probably an affiliate program for that.

Make a list of all of the products and services that you use and hit up Google to find their affiliate programs. Then, write reviews and plug in the affiliate links.

Love OptinMonster? There’s a program for that.

how to start affiliate marketing

WordPress your thing?

affiliate marketing program

Or, maybe you’re less into the digital and more into the glam. Perhaps a Sephora affiliate program is more your speed?

affiliate link

Whatever you love to use, there’s a good chance an affiliate program exists for it.

Promote Products That Fill a Need

Listen to the people who are interested in your niche. What problems are they facing? Are there gaps in the solutions that are already available? Find products that can help and try them out. If the products are good, become an affiliate and recommend them. Your audience wants solutions. If they work, they’ll be willing to pay for them.

Promote Products Your Audience Wants to Know About

Ask your audience what they’re interested in and try it. If it’s a good product, recommend it. If it isn’t, tell them. At best, you’ll get sales. At worst, you’ll gain more trust from your audience. Which basically means there’s no “worst” here.

Promote Products From Others in Your Niche

Pay attention to other affiliate marketers in your niche. What are they talking about and promoting? What ads are they using? Check out Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook to take a look at #affiliate and #ad to see what other affiliates are promoting.

TrustPulse can help you leverage the power of social proof to promote your affiliate products and increase conversions by up to 15%.

6. Join an Affiliate Marketing Network

Affiliate marketing networks are essentially online marketplaces where retailers list their products and affiliates can find products to sell. The marketing network acts as a middleman. As the affiliate, you should never have to pay to sign up for an affiliate marketing network.

Here are a few of the more popular affiliate networks out there, but there are so many more than this:

Want to start your own affiliate program? Affiliate Royale makes it ridiculously easy!

affiliate royale wordpress plugin

This WordPress plugin lets you launch a fully-functioning affiliate program from start to finish in just a few minutes. You’ll be able to easily track outbound links, clicks, payments, and sales from your easy-to-use dashboard, personalized to include only the data that’s important to your goals.

7. Track Your Results

You can use MonsterInsights to easily track the performance of your affiliate products on a WordPress site.

To get started, you’ll need to install and activate the MonsterInsights plugin. Then, connect your WordPress site with your Google Analytics account.

Once activated, you’ll go to Insights » Settings in your WordPress dashboard and select the Tracking tab.

There are several sections to the tab. We start out in the Engagement section where you can see that Enable MonsterInsights events tracking defaults to Yes, which is what we want.

Since we don’t need to take any action in this section, let’s click on Affiliate Links.

In the Affiliate Links section, we’re going to set our affiliate link path using the prefix that our affiliate link plugin adds.

In our screenshot, we used “/recommends/” because the plugin we’re using, ThirstyAffiliates, uses that as the default prefix.

Check out our top picks for WordPress link tracking plugins for successful affiliate marketing!

Next, we’re going to add a label (we used “aff”) so we can easily identify our affiliate links in reports.

Be sure to save your changes.

Once you make these changes, it can take at least 24 hours for Google Analytics to begin reporting.

To view the data, go to your Google Analytics dashboard and click on Behavior » Events » Top Events. Your affiliate links will show up as “outbound-link” with the label you assigned to them.

Tracking your affiliate links in this way can help you understand which products perform better with your audience which can help you provide better products to them in the future.

Even better, you’ll be able to use this knowledge to provide them with better content, increasing their trust and loyalty. This will keep them coming back to you time and again.

If you want your affiliate links to be shorter and more memorable, you should look into a link tracking plugin like Pretty Links.

pretty links affiliate link tracking plugin for wordpress

Pretty Links is super easy to use and turns those long, not-so-pretty affiliate links into something readable. Plus, Pretty Links makes it easy to brand and advertise your affiliate links, manage server-side redirects, and has built-in performance metrics so you always know how your links are doing.

There you have it, folks. You now know how to generate passive income with affiliate marketing. To continue driving traffic to your site, be sure to check out these expert SEO tips!

Can’t get enough of OptinMonster? Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

Jacinda Santora
Jacinda Santora is a writer specializing in eCommerce and growth marketing. She prides herself on her ability to make complicated things easier. When she isn't writing you can find her daydreaming about campervans, drinking coffee, and listening to podcasts.


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  2. This is really helpful! It’s very encouraging to hear that even with starting out small it’s possible to grow and make lots in the future! Thanks for sharing your journey!!

  3. Rowan Clifford May 17, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Nice post guys.

    I saw you had the Thirsty Affiliates plugin on your dashboard. I love that plugin. I’ve found it a great way to organize all of my affiliate links, and it’s also really handy for creating your own personal link tracking and performance metrics.

    I’m all for making money whilst you sleep, and affiliate marketing is an epic way to do that. So many people don’t really understand just how crazy lucrative it can be., but for those that do, they can totally crush it.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Peace out.
    Rowan Clifford.

  4. Every one of us needs money for our living and fulfill our everyday expenses. People are searching for business ideas to earn some additional income. It’s really useful for people. Thank you.

  5. I’m new to this. I’m going to take your advice and jump right in. If there is anyone who want to mentor me or hold my hand thru the process. Let me know lol ? #nervousbeginner

    1. You got this, Porsha! If you’re looking for some tools to make things easier, check out our list of the best WordPress plugins for affiliate marketers and these affiliate link tracking plugins.

  6. Thank you for this. I am just starting my research and your article broke things down really well for me.

  7. Great article! I’ve been doing affiliate marketing for around 2 years now. The feeling of seeing commissions earned the moment I wake up is always very exciting.

  8. I don’t have any website cause I can’t afford it right now but I want to join affiliate marketing program right away. Is it possible?

    1. Hey Becky! There are ways to do affiliate marketing without a website: promoting through social media or online forums/communities, creating an ebook, YouTube, and email marketing, to name a few. However, we do recommend having your own website.

  9. Great post, I think the most relevant advice for me was to stick to only a handful of affiliate offers.

  10. Nice article, what if I got a lot of visitors and there is no conversion at all, what would we advice me to do.

    1. Nathan Thompson
      Nathan Thompson April 6, 2020 at 11:10 am

      Hey! In that case, we would definitely recommend running a few A/B split tests. You can play around with your campaigns to see what’s working and what isn’t. Then, with the analytical data after your test, you can fine-tune your campaigns to get more conversions.

      Check out this article for more information on how to run an A/B split test.

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